Jesus is ‘truth in person’
Posted by Iwan Russell Jones on 19 October 2010, 9:45
MONDAY 18 OCTOBER – The plenary session is on ‘Making the case for the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world’. Carver Yu from Hong Kong argues that the ideology of pluralism is a threat to the proclamation of the gospel as absolute truth. ‘Jesus is the truth’, says Yu, ‘because he is the foundation of all things, the truth that all things have been created as a manifestation of God’s love’.
In a typically clear and forceful presentation, Os Guinness, a Brit who is now based in the USA, urges that ‘only a high view of truth honours the God of truth. First and foremost, truth is a matter of theology. Those who weaken their hold on truth weaken their hold on God.’ Towards the end he strikes a particularly strident note: ‘Let the sorry story of liberal Protestantism be a terrible warning to us all.’
I think I go along with that – as far as it goes. But I’m often very nervous about exactly who evangelicals include in this grouping and who they’re happy to consign to the theological rubbish dump.
I sadly remember being told by a number of prominent evangelicals to be wary of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin. His ecumenical track record, they said, made him very suspect. I ignored their advice. Newbigin’s book, The Open Secret (1978), is one of the finest books ever written on Christian mission, and I’ve brought my treasured copy with me to Cape Town.
In it, he anchors the life of the Christian and the work of the church firmly in the mission of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the movement of the creator towards the creature in grace and mercy. Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God, Newbigin wrote: we are not dealing here with some minor local issue – one belief among many others. ‘We are talking about the reign of God over all that is… about the origin, meaning and end of the universe, and of all man’s history within the history of the universe.’
In the same plenary, a theologian called Michael Herbst gives what I think is an excellent and moving reflection on mission in a part of Germany that for years was under communist rule. How does one present Jesus in this context, where people long ago learned to distrust any claim to truth?
‘Jesus is truth in person’, he says, ‘and if we follow Jesus and love our neighbours we cannot keep silence. But we can’t throw truth in their face like a wet towel.’
Herbst tells the story of a group of young people who moved onto one of the toughest estates in this area and slowly began to build a Christian community through their friendships with the locals. ‘People’s hearts open up when they recognise Jesus, the crucified and risen messiah’. Truth in person.